Invitation Wording 101- Traditional Invitations

There are a lot of unspoken rules hidden in the wording of a wedding invitation.  I’ve never been a believer in doing things purely for the sake of tradition, but I do think that before you go breaking the rules, it’s a good idea to at least know what they are. So here’s a beginner’s guide to the traditional, formal, letterpressed, foiled stamped, engraved invitation:

Starting from the top: If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a ’round robin’ Christmas letter, where everyone is spoken of in the third person, and you’re never quite sure which member of the family actually wrote it, you’ll have an inkling of why it matters to identify “the hosts” – who the invitation is officially from, and to whom they should RSVP, or direct any queries about the event. For a younger couple, whose parents are contributing significantly to the cost of the wedding, it’s most likely to be

Parents of the Bride and Parents of the Groom cordially invite….

If the couple have been together as a family unit for some time, and/or if they are responsible for most of the planning and financing of the wedding, it’s entirely appropriate for the invitation to begin something along the lines of:

Bride and Groom, together with their families, cordially invite…

or even just to begin with their names. In tradition-speak, using a phrase such as:

The honour of your presence is requested….

indicates a church or very formal wedding, a more casual event, or a wedding being held in a venue other than a church would read,

You are cordially invited….

Does it really matter? Probably not. But at least if you know how it’s supposed to go, you have can make an informed decision about your wording.

Be clear about who is included in the invitation. If at all possible, list all invited guests by name – so that it’s clear whether they’re welcome to also bring their kids, partner, dog… whomever.  For the singles among your friends and family, if you possibly can, invite them “and guest”. Again, technically and traditionally, if the name is not on the invitation, the implication is that they are not invited. If you’re making a blanket exclusion, such as no children under a certain age to be present at the ceremony, for example, you should also state that in the body of the invitation.

Be sure to include the day, date and time, as well as the physical address of the ceremony and reception. Although your local friends and family will need less info, you’re probably not going to print different invitations for your out of town guests, so make sure you give enough information about the location of the ceremony and reception venues.

It’s perhaps worth clarifying the time for guests to arrive, and the time you expect the ceremony to start, which are two quite separate things!

The style of your invitation, and the formality of the wording, should give some clues about the ceremony style to your guests, but it’s also a good idea to let them know if there is a dress code, even if the code is casual. For example, f you’re planning to be barefoot on the beach, you should let your guests know they have that option in your invitation: beach casual or beach formal?

If you have a preference, for whatever reason, please let your guests know!  One of the most stunning events I’ve seen was an evening wedding where all the guests were directed to wear black or white. The bride wore red, the groom wore a red vest and tie, and the effect was stunning!

If you’d like your guests to wear jeans, or fancy hats, or mediaeval costume, you’ll need to say so, because unless specified, your guests will turn up in semi-formal attire.

RSVPs are tending to be more by email than by post, but I think it’s nice to keep the option of snail mail. We tend towards a postcard style insert in the invitation, so a guest simple adds their details and mails or hand delivers it back.- Email RSVP is convenient, but misses a layer of ritual that goes beyond a simple acknowledgement that one will turn up.

Be careful with the details you include on your RSVP cards, though – don’t turn them into an advertisement that a specific address will be unattended at this date and time!

Miss Manners believes that no mention of gifts or gift registries should be made in an invitation, on the theory that a gift is not expected, so even saying that you don’t want your guests to bring gifts is implying that they otherwise should. Traditional etiquette is that the guest should enquire of the host, when RSVPing.  I’d love to see a shift away from bringing gifts to the wedding venue – it can be a hassle for the couple to safely get the gifts back home. Far better to deliver your gift to the couple in person, or perhaps to send something around the time of the RSVP, in my opinion. But the gift table is a tradition that’s not going to go away any time soon, I suspect, so don’t mind me.

The invite should also specify details such as, if you plan to have a cash bar, and perhaps contain an insert for out-of-town guests to know accommodation and transport options etc.

Even if you’re using a professional print service, check, check and double-check all spelling, grammar, and details before you go to print!

Obligatory shameless self promotion: The Wedding Whisperer partners with a great little local print company, offering custom designed invites, often cheaper than you could do them yourself! Please do pop in and browse through the giant book of samples, or if you’ve seen something online, send us the link, and we’ll let you know if we can do it for you!

Now… having learned and understood all the rules, the next post is all about how to break them…



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. sandra johnson
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 20:28:23

    I’d like to add: think about sending a copy of your invitation to some of your service providers. As a photographer, I usually ask for a copy of the invitation as it gives me a good feel for the couple and the style of event they’re planning. Of course I’ve talked through the details of the day with the couple, but seeing the invitation adds another layer to understanding them. And understanding a couple helps me tailor my photography to create a unique and personalised look to suit them. I’m sure a great celebrant, florist, cake designer and even cater would feel the same way.


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